Directed by Bryan Singer
In the near future, mutants are hunted and killed by giant robotic Sentinels, able to modify their techniques to counter any mutant power they face. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) realizes the only way to put an end to the war is to send someone back in time to stop the event that caused it, the perfect candidate being Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who was present in 1973 and can have his consciousness transferred back in time to recruit the younger Xavier, Magneto, Mystique and the Beast to stop the birth of the Sentinels at the hands of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
If you've read Chris Claremont and John Byrne's two-issue X-Men story from thirty years back, you already know the general conceit behind the latest installment of Fox's mutant franchise which uses time travel to fix a damaged future, while also giving the fans what might end up being the ultimate X-Men movie.
At first, it may feel like director Bryan Singer is trying to have his cake and eat it too, bringing back many of the actors he hired during his initial run on the series, while continuing what Matthew Vaughn started with "First Class." Like other superhero movies, it's not a direct adaptation of the storyline from the title with obvious changes necessary to make it work, and ultimately, the future (or present day) X-Men are relegated to bookending the continuation of the story about the early days of mutantkind, which is once again tied into actual historic events such as the "revelation" that Magneto may have had something to do with the bullet that struck JFK.
Make no mistake that the reason "X-Men: Days of Future Past" works as well as it does can be attributed directly to the return of Singer behind the camera, not only because he knows the material and characters so well, but also because he brings back the same cinematic flair that made his previous X-movies so grand. Singer know what makes the original comics work with a mix of drama and humor and balancing the mutant battles with soul-searching exposition.
In terms of the latter, Singer brings the best out of the his cast, further expanding on the relationship between the McAvoy-Fassbender Xavier and Magneto, even if it doesn't seem nearly as novel a second time around. When you add Hugh Jackman's Wolverine presence into the mix, he tends to overshadow the rest of his cast, other than maybe Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique as she edges closer to the kick-ass anti-hero from the original trilogy. Her make-up effects are vastly improved over "First Class," as are those used to turn Nicholas Hoult into Beast, Singer even throwing in an homage to "The Wolf Man," a clear inspiration for the character.
With so many returning mutants in "Days of Future Past," one wouldn't expect there to be much room for introducing new characters though it's done far more organically than the way new mutants were introduced in "The Last Stand." You rarely feel as if you're being hit over the head with a lot of unnecessary characters even with the mix of familiar faces with new mutants during the opening battle sequence. (The one exception is a Vietnam scene of Mystique gathering new mutants for her cause, although some of these may be set-up for the next chapter.)
Easily, the new character that stands out and will win audiences over is Evan Peters as Quicksilver, a brash lightning-fast upstart the team calls upon to help Magneto escape from his jail miles below The Pentagon. Peters brings just the right amount of humor to his scenes, particularly one that is easily one of the movie's best moments.
Yet, something overall still feels slightly off about the "Days of Future Past." Maybe it's just one's desire to see more interaction between Stewart and McKellen–the best thing about Singer's earlier X-films–or wanting to feel more for their X-Men as a whole. Or maybe it's the uncharacteristically drab and forgettable performance by Peter Dinklage as Sentinel mastermind Boliver Trask. These all seem like minor things once the third act explodes with both timelines of mutants fighting against their own era's Sentinels, a burst of big screen action that more than makes up for some of the moments that get dragged down with scenes necessary to explain things. (Make sure to stay to the very end of the credits for a teaser for the next movie in the franchise.)
The Bottom Line:
A perfectly fine follow-up to "X-Men: First Class" and a nice way to offer some closure for Singer's earlier X-men movies, "Days of Future Past" does a good job upping the ante on the superhero movie while at the same time learning how much harder that is while trying to get out from under the shadow of "The Avengers."